By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – No statistics are kept on how often Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says a player’s name. But it’s possible that last year as a redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard got more mentions from Meyer than some starters.
Now that Hubbard has gotten on the field, it’s easy to see why Meyer couldn’t stop talking about him.
The 6-foot, 6-inch, 265-pound defensive end is tied for the team lead in sacks with 2.5 and has three tackles for losses, going into Saturday’s game against Western Michigan at Ohio Stadium.
While his high school coach at Cincinnati Moeller predicted Hubbard would eventually be drafted as a a defensive end by an NFL team, OSU wasn’t sure quite what to do with him when he first arrived.
Hubbard was a high school All-American in lacrosse and originally committed to Notre Dame to play that sport.
But he also turned into a 4-star recruit in football and decided he wanted to play on the bigger stage football offered. And football gave him the chance to get a full scholarship instead of the partial scholarship he would have gotten to play lacrosse.
When Hubbard got to Ohio State he was penciled in as a safety or maybe a linebacker. But because of injuries and a suspension, he was moved to tight end the first few weeks of last season. Finally, he landed in the defensive ends meeting room.
All the while, Meyer kept debating what to do with him. He was too good not to play but also too good to burn an entire year of eligibility just for a few token appearances.
Hubbard just kept practicing hard and wondering if he was going to play or be redshirted.
“The only thing I heard was the stuff he (Meyer) was saying in the interviews after I’d have a good day on the scout team in practice. He did bring me into his office one week, I think it was week six or week seven, after I was doing really well on scout team, and asked me if I I wanted to play,” Hubbard said.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I want to play, but it’s pretty late in the season.’ He said, ‘We can’t waste a whole season in week eight.’ He said that wouldn’t be fair to me and my career. He said to focus on getting better and getting ready for next year.”
Hubbard said he didn’t know for sure he’d found a football home at defensive end until the opener at Virginia Tech.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I had never played the position before. I had some pretty good days in practice but I didn’t know what it would be like in a game, if it would be 10 times harder or a hundred times harder,” he said.
ELIDA CONNECTION: Western Michigan punter J. Schroeder (he uses an initial for a first name) is the son of Jeff Schroeder, an Elida High School graduate.
The younger Schroeder, a Columbus St. Charles High School graduate, was third-team All-Mid-American Conference last season when he averaged 42.8 yards per punt.
MEYER ON OFFENSIVE LINE: Ohio State’s offensive line has been a disappointment in its last two games, Meyer said on his weekly radio show on Thursday.
“The offensive line has been disappointing. We have not played well and that is the strength of our team,” he said.
“ When we play well, they get the credit. That’s where it all starts. That’s where it all finishes. At the end of the day the offensive line determines the score of the game. The first game we played well (on the offensive line). The second game and the third game we did not play well at all.”
MEYER ON DEFENSE: On the other hand, Meyer is very happy with how the Buckeyes have played on defense.
“Think about the defense one year ago today. It was average at best. In 2013 it was below average. You like to see a steady incline and it’s gone from very average to as good a defense as I’ve witnessed in the last three games of the year.”
CHANGES COMING: Big plays have been scarce for Ohio State and one of the reasons is inadequate blocking on the outside, Meyer said.
“I was really disappointed with the perimeter blocking last week. We had a chance to pop one and we didn’t so we’re going to make some changes out there,” he said.
Parris Campbell, who started the first three games at one wide receiver spot, is out because of a bone bruise and ligament strain. When asked who might replace him, Meyer mentioned redshirt freshman Terry McLaurin and true freshman K.J. Hill as people who could get some playing time.
ELLIOTT’S WORKLOAD: Ohio State tries to get Ezekiel Elliott 20 to 26 touches on the football per game, Meyer said.
Elliott carried the ball 27 times last week against Northern Illinois last week, 23 times against Hawaii and 11 times against Virginia Tech.
Reach Jim Naveau at (567) 242-0414 or follow him on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.